There will be a new philosophy in the Twin Cities this season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but expectations are not so high.
Having amassed 32 wins over the past two seasons under Kurt Rambis, the powers that be decided that the former bespectacled player's time was up as a bench boss. Rambis was axed over the summer before the NBA's lockout even grew legs and the Timberwolves went 17-65 in 2010-11.
Rambis went 15-67 in 2009-10 and will be succeeded by veteran NBA coach Rick Adelman, who joined the fray in September. The 65-year-old Adelman has a 945-616 career record during head coaching stints in Portland, Sacramento, Golden State and Houston. He left the Rockets this past April.
"After a thorough search and interview process, we're pleased to be bringing a coach of Rick Adelman's stature on board to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves," said David Kahn, Timberwolves president of basketball operations. "Rick has proven time and again that he is one of the top coaches in basketball -- one of the top coaches in the history of our sport. We are excited to have him as the leader of our young and talented team."
Adelman led Portland to a pair of NBA Finals appearances (1990, '92) and has guided his clubs to the playoffs 16 times. That type of success won't be reached any time soon in Minnesota, but at least Adelman has a solid nucleus to work with. Led by All-Star and rebounding machine Kevin Love, the Wolves are looking to vastly improve on what has been two lousy seasons. Love led the team in both points (20.2) and rebounds (15.2) last season and will have Ricky Rubio dishing him passes in the upcoming campaign.
Rubio was selected by the Timberwolves with the fifth overall pick of the 2009 draft, but at age 18 decided to remain at home to play for Regal Barcelona. The Spanish star and skilled point guard averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 assists per game this season for Barcelona, which claimed the Spanish league title. After the 2009 draft, Minnesota had an agreement in place with Rubio's former team, DKV Joventut, on a buyout package that would have enabled him to play for the Wolves. However, Rubio decided to stay home and play for Barcelona, which also made an offer to buy out the Joventut contract.
Minnesota added a few new faces in guard J.J. Barea, veteran swingman Bonzi Wells and rookie guard Malcolm Lee. Barea played in 81 games for Dallas last season, averaging 9.5 points and 3.9 assists. He also averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in 21 playoff games for the World Champion Mavericks.
"We are excited to add J.J. Barea to our team," said David Kahn, Timberwolves president of basketball operations. "His experience, leadership capabilities and all-around play should help us immensely this coming season and beyond."
Wells last played in the NBA during the 2007-08 season, when he split the year with Houston and New Orleans. The Timberwolves are counting on big things from this year's draft pick, talented forward Derrick Williams out of Arizona.
2010-11 Results: 17-65, fifth in Northwest, Missed playoffs.
ADDITIONS: F Derrick Williams, G Ricky Rubio, G J.J. Barea, C Brad Miller, G Bonzi Wells.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
FRONTCOURT: Love is one of the top forwards in the game and there's no telling how much more he can improve. With a rebounding prowess the likes of which Bill Russell, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon would blush at, Minnesota's offense runs through Love. Love, the reigning Most Improved Player, played in 73 contests a year ago and came in thinner this season. The weight loss can only help the big man, especially his knees, and will give the Wolves added athleticism inside. Beasley plays with an attitude down low and posted 19.2 points and 5.6 boards in 73 games a year ago. When Beasley's on his game and not getting caught up in social media he is one of a few who can be stopped. Darko Milicic hasn't lived up to his billing as a top draft pick and is expected to start at center. He averaged 8.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 69 games last year.
BACKCOURT: Rubio is an instant Rookie of the Year candidate and may push Luke Ridnour out of the starting point guard spot. Rubio is as talented as they come and the fans have been waiting patiently to see what he can do at the NBA level. In his two seasons with Barcelona, Rubio averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 assists in 65 games. He also averaged 7.7 points and 3.6 assists in four seasons with DKV Joventut. Ridnour led the Timberwolves with 5.4 assists per game in 2010-11 and scored 11.8 ppg. Wes Johnson enjoyed a strong rookie season a year ago, averaging 9.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists. The former Syracuse standout understands how to get his teammates involved and should see even more time under Adelman this season since the Wolves are lacking in talented shooting guards.
BENCH: The addition of Brad Miller could mean the end of Milicic starting at center, but then again Adelman may want to keep some talent coming off of the bench. Minnesota acquired Miller from Houston in a deal that sent point guard Jonny Flynn to Space City. Miller was made expendable partly because the Rockets drafted Marcus Morris at No. 14. Miller averaged just 6.4 points in 60 games last season while battling knee and ankle injuries. He underwent microfracture knee surgery after the season. In June, the Wolves exercised the fourth-year option on guard Wayne Ellington, and the third-year options on forwards Wes Johnson and Lazar Hayward, who was then dealt to Oklahoma City. Rookie Derrick Williams and Barea could also work their way into the starting lineup. If Williams cracks the lineup, expect Beasley to hit the pine. It's unknown how much Wells can contribute after being out of action so long.
COACHING: The Timberwolves have a legitimate coach now that Adelman is in the fold, but it will still take some time for this team to come together. The 65- year-old Adelman has a 945-616 career record during head coaching stints in Portland, Sacramento, Golden State and Houston. He left the Rockets this past April. Adelman led Portland to a pair of NBA Finals appearances (1990, '92) and has guided his clubs to the playoffs 16 times. His no nonsense approach and having Love at his disposal should boost morale. Adelman's former big man Chris Webber feels Adelman will have a great impact on the team with the way he teaches the game. Being aware of the basics is key, according to Webber.
OUTLOOK: Flip Saunders was the last successful coach the Timberwolves had and when he departed the wins did as well. Now it's up to Adelman's strict policy to turn things around and he'll have a few players to help along the way. It won't be easy at first and it may take a couple of seasons to adjust, but Minnesota is headed in the right direction. Rubio is finally in the NBA and will go up against a tough crop of guards ready to stick it to the Spanish star, who has gained so much hype without dribbling a ball at this level. The Wolves will not be contenders for some time and the playoffs are still far- fetched. Expect Adelman and Company to erase those sentiments in two years.